Jason Statham blows stuff up and kicks all kinds of butt in The Mechanic, in which he receives an assist from Ben Foster.
Arthur Bishop (Statham) is a “mechanic” — an assassin who kills people on orders from some shadowy corporation. He receives money and instruction and his skills with breaking, entering and neutralizing faceless henchmen have him acquiring targets and making getaways faster than you can say “remarkable biceps.” Normally, all these kills are water off a duck’s back, but then one assignment isn’t what it appears and he’s in a hurry to find out what’s going on behind the scenes. As Arthur starts to discover the duplicity of his boss Dean (Tony Goldwin — I’m giving away nothing here; Tony Goldwin is always the evil guy), he digs into the death of a mentor (Donald Sutherland). Though normally a loner — even his favorite prostitute doesn’t know his name — Arthur gets a partner in his crimes when he hooks up with Steve (Ben Foster), his mentor’s estranged son.
You’ve seen this movie before — every part of it: the secretive assassin, the double-crossing villain, the new guy, the impossible task. Jason Statham was probably in one of the more recent versions. But this tour through familiar territory is nonetheless fun. The capers are well-choreographed — the violence and the minimal story flow nicely. Statham is at peak Stathamness (though, sadly, not inexplicably shirtless as he often is in the Transporter movies). He manages to be believable and unwinking with the action absurdity while still surprisingly cool. He is the muscley, downmarket alternative to James Bond.
What truly knocks this movie a few notches up on the quality meter, though, is Foster’s performance. Foster has been twitchy and wonderful in all sorts of movies — most memorably 3:10 to Yuma and Pandorum. In someone else’s hands, this could easily have been just a sidekick character, someone for Statham to stand next to and to look buffer and awesomer than. But Foster makes Steve a truly independent character, one with his own dark side and motivations and desires. It’s a nice surprise in a movie that doesn’t seem like the sort to warrant this quality of supporting character.
The Mechanic isn’t genius — I’m sure there was dialogue but I don’t remember any of it. But it is a solid, smarter-than-expected little action movie for grown-ups.
Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity. Directed by Simon West and written by Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino, The Mechanic is an hour and 40 minutes long and distributed in wide release by CBS Films.